PARTIES? TWO, AS USUAL. YES, STILL.
Charles Lane, writing for The Washington Post:
Now, however, under the Internet-intensified pressure of recession, terrorism and global uncertainty, ... four parties are breaking out of the two-party mold that had previously contained them. On the Democratic side, President Obama finds himself torn between progressives demanding an ideologically pure health-care program, among other agenda items, and a pragmatic wing desperately attempting to hold together 60 Senate votes by whatever means necessary. On the Republican side, it's unclear whether the party's right wing is angrier at Obama or at its own leadership. Certainly the fury of the Tea Party and similar groups threatens here and there to overwhelm more conventional conservatives (just ask Charlie Crist in Florida).
Yes -- but the result isn't going to be any real splintering.
In the first place, neither restive group actually wants to split: Lefty Democrats claim to belong to "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," while far-right Republicans describe the Charlie Crists in their party as people who "want Republicans to be more like Democrats." So, see, there's still a sense of brand loyalty in both groups, however disgruntled they are.
And we can easily predict the end result, or results. Wingnuts are used to getting a great deal of what they want from the GOP (tax cuts, gay-baiting, liberal-baiting, jingoism) -- and they're going to get what they want this time, too. They're going to succeed in remaking the party in their own image -- it's going to get even wingnuttier. By contrast, liberals never get what they want from the Democratic Party; we're going to fail again, and, as usual, we're not going to leave. (The other group that never gets what it wants, moderate Republicans, is just as wussy as we are, and is also never going to leave, although there'll probably be another wave of impotent "It's my party, too!" foot-stamping from Christie Whitman types as the GOP tacks even further right.)
So relax, folks. There are no schisms in the works. Everything's just the same as it always is, only more so.